The word according to Mak Manaka

Renowned wordsmith Maakomele "Mak" Manaka's latest work offers a glimpse into his personal journey.
Renowned wordsmith Maakomele "Mak" Manaka's latest work offers a glimpse into his personal journey.
Image: Supplied

There is a belief that the elusive art of poetry is not difficult to master if you know how to paint a picture with words.

One poet who has clearly mastered the art is the internationally acclaimed Maakomele “Mak” Manaka, who was born in Soweto 35 years ago.

Manaka launched his fourth anthology, Oncoming Traffic,packed with engrossing and sharp-edged poems that unpack his personal life, last week.

The 46 poems are about Manaka’s feelings about disability and manhood.

“My poems mainly reflect the silence in my personal conflict, writing what I cannot say... what it means to be a man when raised by a woman.

“Secondly, they deal with my relationship with myself as a man with a physical disability [for many years he was in a wheelchair and then started walking with crutches].

“I also look at the reality of living in a dysfunctional/disabled society.”

He says the book highlights his challenges as a black man in a very judgmental society.

"I live in a community where there are people referred to as normal while others are abnormal.

"What irritates me is that they forever think you need help.

"I think about the fact that if I have a child, will I be able to pick him or her up with my condition?"

Manaka's book is full of variations in syntax, and complexities of metaphorical language.

Through words, he takes the reader back to the day when a wall fell on him, leaving him with spinal injuries.

His pain is summed up in the poem Poet of the Pavements.

“What irritates me is that they forever think you need help.

“I think about the fact that if I have a child, will I be able to pick him or her up with my condition?”

Manaka’s book is full of variations in syntax, and complexities of metaphorical language.

Through words, he takes the reader back to the day when a wall fell on him, leaving him with spinal injuries. His pain is summed up in the poem Poet of the Pavements.

Armed with a master’s degree in creative writing from Rhodes University, Manaka breathes meaning and fire into his words.

He says most of the poems were written while he was studying at Rhodes. He paints a Grahamstown that has two worlds – one for the poor and the other for the elite.

“I discovered my own and the place’s demons,” he said.

Manaka published his first anthology If Only in 2003, his second In Timein 2009 and the third, Flowers Of A Broken Smile, in 2016.

Manaka believes he has grown as a writer and in term of his subjects. He says the first collection dealt with anger.

“I used it as a coping mechanism. I was still dealing with my accident. In the second one, I was flexing my writing skill. In the third, I was growing to understand the language, the style and how to articulate my ideas. The third book dealt with the politics of emotions.”

He has also recorded a dub poetry (performance poetry) album titled Word Sound Power. Manaka has performed in Spain, Cuba, Jamaica, Lesotho, Botswana, Germany, Holland, Italy and Switzerland.


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